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The hot days of summer are a good time to stop, rest, reflect on the past and determine a direction for the future. Some of the Evanston 150 goals promote activities that improve health and beauty while at the same time protecting the environment.
Working with, rather than against, nature saves valuable time and money. In Evanston, this means concentrating on cultivating plants that grow well in alkaline soils and that can survive in a temperature range from -20¢ªF to 95¢ª F.
Gardeners should make it a point to know the environmental conditions of their own space and have a plan to use it. They should determine where it is sunny or shady. Roses and most vegetables do best with six hours of sun. It is also valuable to know whether the soil is sand or clay.
The focus or purpose of the area – be it an outdoor living room, vegetable garden, or children’s play area – makes a difference. And the gardener needs to factor in how much time must be devoted to watering and maintenance. Mother Nature will manage quite well on her own with a “natural” garden of groundcover, perennials and trees.
Many lawns, in olden times, were installed to show that their well-to-do owners did not need the space for growing food and that they had enough staff (or family) to maintain them. However these days, lawns are great for games and picnics and to showcase flowerbeds.
Grass lawns grow best on level, well-drained soil in full sun. Trying to grow a lawn on slopes or waterlogged sites or in the shade takes a lot more effort and most likely will not produce the desired results.
Other plants, such as groundcovers, will grow better, slow runoff and prevent erosion. Bluegrass lawns go brown in hot, dry weather. Those who prefer green should consider dwarf white clover. It stops growing at four inches, does not need watering, puts nitrogen into the soil and will remain green all summer.
Composting grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter puts money in the bank. Compost can be used as natural mulch and will also improve the soil structure, help keep the weeds down and reduce the need for water and chemicals.
Native (local) plants will attract birds and butterflies to the garden. While butterflies will sip nectar from almost any flower, caterpillars are very conservative and tend to stick to plants they have chewed on for thousands of years.
Water is as important to these creatures as food. A shallow container filled with water that is changed every few days to prevent mosquito breeding will attract both birds and butterflies. A few small rocks at one side are a decorative touch that will also provide a place for them to perch while drinking.
Despite a few last hot spells, autumn is closing in on summer. While many think of fall as signaling the year’s end, it is also a prime time for gardeners to frame resolutions for the next growing season.
They would be wise to head the list with a pledge to plant and tend their gardens in ways that put them in synch with the environment.